Let’s Talk – Flinging Paint

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Okay, maybe paint flinging doesn’t have the time-honored Renaissance tradition of chiaroscuro or glazing, but it certainly became a popular painting technique of the non-representational school of painting.

Paint flinging came into the spotlight in the early 1940s when Jackson Pollock began doing amazing paintings on canvas that shook the art world. These abstract pieces are a combination of dripping, pouring and flinging paint. Some proclaim that they are not so much art, but a waste of good paint. Others herald them as genius. Whatever your personal take on Mr. Pollack’s work, the techniques he used can certainly be a fun and colorful way to loosen up your own work.

Paint Flinging 101

There’s a number of different methods for splattering paint. Some are controlled, while other methods are done with wild abandon. Paint an entire canvas, or use these methods to spice up an area of a painting to add texture and color.

You can use acrylic or watercolor for this technique. Simply add enough water to make the paint liquid enough without losing the pigment’s concentration. If you vary the thickness of the paints, you have more flexibility in the effects you can create.

Make up enough paint so you don’t need to stop and mix a new batch while in the throes of creative abandon. Use cans or dishes to prepare your paints, and if they have tight-sealing lids, you can save them for additional painting sessions.

For this technique to work, you need to ensure that your studio area is splatter-proof. If you fuss and worry over where the paint might land, you’ll never be able to experience the freedom this style of painting offers.

If you’ll be using an easel to hold your support, protect the wall and floor behind it with a drapery of plastic or canvas painter’s tarps. If you choose to lay your support on the floor, be sure to protect the area around your canvas.


Use a paintbrush, stick or any other likely utensil to drip paint. This method gives you the most control, as you’re working with a small amount of paint and are working in a restricted fashion. Vary the height of the drop and the size of the drips to achieve different effects.

Dripping paint onto a canvas that’s on a flat surface will give you spots and splats, while dripping onto a canvas that is reclined at an angle or standing upright on an easel will result in runs and trickles of paint. Vary the angle of incline to get different results. Move the canvas in different directions to alter the direction the paint flows.


A variety of tools can be used to splatter. Use your brush and a quick snap of the wrist for a large amount of splatter. If you use your whole arm to fling your paint, you’ll create a different and much broader splatter field.

Load a toothbrush with paint and use a palette knife to scrape across the bristles. This method creates a fine mist of paint, which can be controlled over a narrow range of your support. This method is effective on smaller works or a small detail area.

Try using different implements to splatter paint. You’ll achieve distinctive splatter patterns, density of paint and sizes of spots with different tools.

Spraying Paint

There’s a couple ways to spray your paint without the use of a mechanical or pressurized device. One way to spray paint is to use an empty plastic squeeze bottle. Make sure the opening in the bottle top is very small. If it’s too large, seal the hole with epoxy, let it dry and use a pin or darning needle to open a small hole.

Another fun way to spray paint is to use a drinking straw. Draw some paint into the straw, or add paint with an eyedropper. Hold the end with your finger until you get the other end in your mouth and quickly blow the paint onto your support. Just be sure to exhale instead of inhaling. Blue teeth and tongue are not a pretty sight.

Loosen up your art and have some fun with paint flinging. You never know what you’ll come up with, and you may just be the 21st century’s incarnation of Jackson Pollack.

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